Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dogs and Chocolate: A Dangerous Combination!

February 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Out & About


dog with chocolate candy bar


O'Riley, AuthorValentine’s Day is fast approaching and as for me make my treat a beef chewy!  I tangled with chocolate truffles at Christmas and believe me dogs and chocolate are a dangerous combination.  Gorging myself on the sweet confections, along with the foil wrappings and a little Christmas paper attached, led to an emergency trip to the vets, induced vomiting to expel the little morsels, and repeated doses of activated charcoal to absorb any toxins headed for my intestinal tract.  (And let me tell you upchucked activated charcoal is the messiest gunk to clean up when deposited in a car back seat and carpeting!)  Top that off with a day or two to completely get back to my normal self along with a dandy vet bill and you can see why I will stick to a beef chewy!  Nice Christmas present, huh! 

Below is research information on why chocolate is dangerous to dogs.  Read on and learn fellow doggies!

So Why is Chocolate Poisonous for dogs? 

Chocolate is one of the most common causes of canine poisoning.  It is made from cocoa beans that contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine .  It is the theobromine in the chocolate that is poisonous to dogs, increasing urination and affecting  the central nervous system and  heart muscle.  The high fat content may also cause vomiting or diarrhea.  Because dogs metabolize theobromine much more slowly than people, many vets agree that the quick boost we get from eating chocolate may last only 20 to 40 minutes, but for dogs it can last for many hours, anywhere from 4 to 17 hours according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.  Toxic amounts can induce restlessness and hyperactivity, tremors or seizures,  high blood pressure and rapid heart rate, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest .

So How Much Chocolate Is Toxic?

There are variables to consider such as the type of chocolate your dog has eaten and the amount ingested in relation to the weight of the dog.  And the more theobromine a cocoa product contains, the more poisonous it is to your dog.  The good news is that on average, it takes a fairly large amount of theobromine to cause a toxic reaction, somewhere in the range of 100-150 mg/kg . 

The following reference is taken from Kirk and Bistner’s Handbook of Veterinary Procedures and Emergency Treatment:

Chocolate – active ingredient = theobromine:

  • The half life in the dog is 17.5 hours
  • The Toxic dose in the dog is 100-150 mg/kg.
    • A kilogram (kg) = 2.2 lbs.
    • A milligram(mg) = 1/1000 of a gram

For a 50 pound dog a toxic dose would roughly be 2200 mg or 2.2 grams of pure chocolate.

The concentration of theobromine also varies with the type of chocolate:

  • Milk chocolate has 44mg/oz. – toxic dose for 50 lb. dog = 50 oz. of milk chocolate.
  • Semisweet chocolate has 150 mg/oz. – toxic dose for 50 lb. dog = 15 oz. of semisweet chocolate.
  • Baking chocolate 390mg/oz. – toxic dose for 50 lb. dog = 5 oz. of baking chocolate.
  • White chocolate has no cocoa solids, it contains only trace amounts of theobromine. 

Simply put the toxic dose roughly comes out as:
1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce per 10 pounds of body weight for Baker’s chocolate.

Therefore a dog eating one oz. of baking chocolate would have to eat almost 3 oz. of semisweet or 10 oz. of milk chocolate to get the same dose of theobromine.


So What Is The Best Treatment?

Treatment is best administered by your veterinarian doctor and staff:

  • Support Respiration
  • Support cardiovascular function, control arrhythmias, control electrolytes and acid-base balance.
  • Control CNS excitation.
  • Emesis
  • Gastric lavage
  • Cathartic
  • Activated charcoal (charcoal slurry)

If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate contact your Vet immediately!  Be as precise as you can about the type of chocolate and when and how much was eaten by your dog.  They can help you determine the the proper treatment for your pet.  In office treatment may include medication to induce vomiting, doses of activated charcoal to inhibit absorption of the toxin in the intestinal tract, oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids and medications as needed.  Hospitalization may be required.

So as you can see dogs and chocolate are a dangerous combination, and after the experience I went through chocolate is definitely off my selected treat list!  Be a smart pet owner and make sure any chocolate candy or baking chocolate is out of the reach of pilferious pups like myself!  Now where’s my beef chewy………… 


Looking for more information on Dog Health?  May we recommend these additions to your home library:



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